Through innovative recycling programs and community partnerships, the Chumash Casino Resort diverts more than 90 percent of its waste stream from landfills, which, along with an extensive inspection, qualified the facility to receive TRUE certification at the Silver level in the rating system.
Currently, there are more than 120 TRUE-certified projects throughout the U.S., but the Chumash Casino Resort is one of just 11 to be certified at the Silver level. In addition to becoming the first casino to earn this distinction, the entertainment complex is the first in Indian Country to be TRUE-certified, and just the second facility in California to earn TRUE certification at the Silver level.
“It is a distinct honor for our tribe and the Chumash Casino Resort to be recognized by Green Business Certification Inc. for our zero waste efforts,” said Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “As the original stewards of the Santa Ynez Valley, our tribe understands the importance of minimizing our impact on the environment by any means necessary. The casino’s Facilities Department has taken our recycling efforts to another level, and it has required a lot of cooperation throughout our resort to get us where we are today – preventing more than 90 percent of our waste from reaching local landfills. Being the first TRUE-certified gaming facility in the country is a source of pride for our tribal members and all of the employees at the Chumash Casino Resort who have remained dedicated as we sought to achieve our zero waste goal.”
The TRUE Zero Waste certification program strives to change the way materials flow through society so that all products are eventually reused and diverted from landfill, incineration (waste-to-energy) and the environment. TRUE provides best practices and training that enable businesses, property managers, schools, government agencies and nonprofits to rethink how resources are used. TRUE-certified projects are environmentally responsible and achieve a minimum of 90 percent waste diversion.
“The Chumash Casino Resort’s TRUE Zero Waste certification is paving the way for a more sustainable future,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO, U.S. Green Building Council and GBCI. “When we restructure our operations and production systems in a way that improves business, the environment and our communities, we become true leaders.”
The Chumash Casino Resort adopted the Zero Waste International Alliance’s definition of zero waste: “The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
To reach its ambitious goal of 90 percent waste diversion, the Chumash Casino Resort’s Facilities Department formed new partnerships and participated in innovative programs to complement its extensive in-house recycling efforts:
- CARE (Cups Are REcyclable): Styrofoam cups are collected, compressed and sent to the Dart Container Corp., which reprocesses Polystyrene (PE No. 6) into picture frames, crown molding and other products.
- TerraCycle: Trenton, N.J.-based company collects discarded cigarette butts and turns them into plastic shipping pallets, park benches, picnic tables and other products.
- Veggie Rescue: Santa Ynez, Calif.-based nonprofit collects excess produce from farmers markets and prepared food from the Chumash Casino Resort then distributes it directly to those in need.
- Engel & Gray: Santa Maria, Calif.-based company accepts landscape trimmings and pre-consumer food scraps that are composted into an organic tropical mix and sold as Harvest Blend Compost.
- Clean the World Foundation: Orlando, Fla.-based nonprofit sterilizes and reprocesses used hotel amenities (soap, shower gel, shampoo) and sends them as part of hygiene kits to countries in need.
- Textile Waste Solutions: Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company takes used uniforms and transforms the material into industrial wiping cloths
- Frontline International: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio-based company accepts cooking oil waste and transforms it into bio-diesel.
In 2018, the Chumash Casino Resort diverted 2,922,307 pounds of waste, representing 90.94 percent of its overall waste stream, from local landfills through the success of its zero waste program.
One of the highlights of the waste diversion program has been the partnership with Veggie Rescue, which accepted more than four tons – 8,478 pounds – of prepared food from the Chumash Casino Resort buffet in 2018 for use at a senior center in Buellton, Calif., and its Meals on Wheels program.
The Chumash Casino Resort also received certificate of distinction from TerraCycle for being its top collector of discarded cigarette butts every year since the partnership began in 2013. “Cigarettes are the most frequently littered item on the planet. Such a monumental problem requires a large-scale solution and together Chumash Casino and TerraCycle have taken on that challenge,” said Tom Szaky, Founder and CEO of TerraCycle. “By offering their guests a way to responsibly recycle their cigarette butts, the Chumash Casino has taken a dramatic step towards preserving our environment and keeping it clean for future generations.”
The Chumash Casino Resort boasts nearly 1 million square feet of developed space, which includes a 24-hour gaming floor with 2,400 slot machines, nine full-service restaurants, a 320-room AAA Four Diamond-rated hotel, a 25,000-square-foot rooftop pool deck, a 15,000-square-foot facility used for bingo, concerts (1,400 capactiy) and boxing/MMA events and a full-service spa. All of which entertains an estimated 3.75 million visitors annually.
“The Chumash Casino Resort proves that you can have a successful enterprise while also being mindful of the environment,” Kahn said. “We hope we can be a model for other Indian gaming properties in California, other large companies across the country and other local businesses that want to reduce the environmental impact they have in our community.”